In an attempt to engage current events, students in TEC 4748 Architectural Design Studio IV explored the necessity for and conflicts between the complex issues of (1) security, (2) safety, and (3) shelter in the United States – Mexico borderlands at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument (AZ).
Using a hypothetical call for ideas “issued” by the National Park Service and the American Institute of Architects, Professor D. Jason Miller, AIA asked students to consider, and wrestle with, the professional role and ethical responsibilities architects have with respect to topics of national security, immigration policy, and human welfare. The project was organized in three stages: first, to propose an alternative security barrier that would be more environmentally sensitive to the delicate desert landscape; second, to provide a health, safety, and welfare strategy that created essential supply cache points for those on both sides of the twenty-three mile border section; and third, to develop temporary housing solutions based on informal models for those who reach the border to request asylum in the United States.
Students researched, designed and produced each stage of the project in one-week, charrette-style intervals. At the completion of each stage, students collaborated with a classmate to review and discuss their respective design proposals. Following that review, students exchanged projects and designed the next stage as an addition to the existing boundary design proposed by their partner. This game of “Architectural Telephone” required the students to listen closely to one another and embrace the “newly existing” context in order to approach the next design stage successfully.
This unique design process yielded unique design solutions and some extraordinary conversations on challenging subjects. Projects results ranged widely from natural barriers to physical barriers to technological barriers. As one student noted, the project revealed “the importance of trying to understand different perspectives and using different ideas to strengthen your own … the amount of growth and creativity that can result from different people working together is amazing.”
Note: image shows student review of work.